This introductory tour of Cambridge covers a range of ‘uncomfortable’ histories, from the tensions between town and gown, to the legacies of empire, the effects of racial inequality, the gender dynamics and discriminations that shaped the city and the university.
These walking tours are talking tours: the guides will lead participants around the city and ask questions to spark respectful conversations inspired by the built environment.
What should we do with controversial statues?
How should nations teach their histories?
Who has access to university education?
The tour starts at the most iconic Camrbdige view, outside King’s College Chapel, to introduce participants to the violent context of the creation of the University. It then continues to the Great St Mary’s Church to talk about the historical destruction of archives, and how the violent confrontation in the past between townspeople and a privileged population of students has obscured what we know about the origins of the University. Participants will continue down Cambridge’s small cobblestone streets to the back of the Old Schools and discuss the increasingly global sources of wealth and power going back to the University, through the involvement of major donors in the slave trade. Local conflicts also benefited the town, as during the English Civil War with Cambridge as the seat of the Parliamentarian Cromwellian armies – looking back from “the Backs’, the group will start a conversation on the divided memory about Cromwell’s rule, in England but also in other parts of the world. The tour will then continue further away to the city centre to address the gendered geography of the city and the place of women in an historically masculine academic environment. Over the last few stops, the group will also discuss the question of diversifying the student body and the importance of representation, the complex question of reparations in the aftermath of empire, and the ways in which histories of sexuality have evolved, from persecution to belated celebration.